What is a DRE? Relax and I’ll tell you all about it!

A DRE stands for Digital Rectal Examination. It is a physical examination conducted by your doctor to feel for any physical abnormalities in the size, shape and texture of your prostate.

DRE Digital Rectal Exam

Here’s an overview of what happens;

  1. You’ll be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on your side with your knees bent towards your chest. You may also be provided with a gown to cover yourself.
  2. Your doctor will put on a pair of gloves and cover a finger with a water-based lubricant to make the insertion more comfortable.
  3. The doctor will gently insert their lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum to feel your prostate gland through the rectum wall.
  4. Your doctor will assess the size, shape, and texture of the prostate gland. Paying special attention to any nodules, areas of tenderness or irregularities in the prostate surface.
  5. During the examination, the doctor might also assess the nearby structures, such as the seminal vesicles located near the prostate gland.
  6. Once the examination is complete, the doctor will gently remove their finger from the rectum and you’ll be provided with some tissues to wipe yourself to clean.

The reason your healthcare provider feels the prostate and surrounding area is that any areas of discomfort, enlargement or irregular nodules may indicate underlying conditions like prostate cancer, prostatitis, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The DRE is a relatively quick and straightforward procedure, but it may cause mild discomfort and for some, it may be embarrassing.

It’s important to note that a DRE is just one component of an assessment for prostate-related conditions. Other diagnostic tests, such as blood tests to measure PSA levels and imaging studies, may also be recommended based on the results of the DRE. Always discuss any concerns or questions you may have about the DRE with your doctor.

How to relax before a DRE (YES it’s a finger in your bottom!)

Understandably, some individuals may experience anxiety or discomfort before a Digital Rectal Examination (DRE). Here are some tips to help relax before a DRE:

  1. If you feel anxious or uncomfortable about the DRE, it’s important to communicate your concerns as your doctor they can provide you with information about the procedure, explain what to expect, and address any questions or fears you may have. Remember, understanding the process can help alleviate anxiety.
  2. Practice deep breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques before the examination. Taking slow, deep breaths can help calm your body and mind, reducing anxiety and muscle tension. It really works, try it!
  3. Engage in activities that distract your mind and help you relax. You can listen to calming music, read a book or magazine, watch a funny video, or engage in any other activity that helps take your focus away from the upcoming procedure. Personally, I watch comedians on YouTube who are self-deprecating (taking the micky out of personal foibles or life in general) This puts everything in perspective!
  4. Use visualisation techniques to imagine yourself in a peaceful and calm environment. Picture yourself in a serene place that brings you comfort and relaxation.
  5. Tell your doctor about any specific concerns or discomfort you may have. They can help ensure your comfort during the examination and provide clear instructions.

Remember, healthcare professionals are trained to perform DRE’s with sensitivity and respect for patient comfort. They know you might be anxious. It’s important to talk openly about your concerns, ask questions and say if you feel any discomfort.

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